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Unifying Optional Wh-movement

By Weichiang Norman Yeo


This thesis puts forward a theory that attempts to unify optional wh-movement within the Minimalist framework. Optionality is generally problematic for a theory ofMinimalist syntax: movement, when motivated, must occur. This thesis argues that having a wh-movement language does not strictly entail that wh-phrases appear fronted in surface syntax. Essentially, the formal optionality of wh-movement is predicted to fall out via the multiple satisfaction of the EPP. Wh-movement languages all possess equally economical options to leave wh-phrases in-situ without a need to postulate an optional EPP feature or multiple grammars. There are three core pillars to the theory proposed. First, the QuP hypothesis proposes that universally, a question particle Qu, which is seen to be a variable over choice functions, takes a wh-phrase as its complement to form a larger constituent. Second, it is proposed that the principle driving force of optional movement lies in the Featural Subset Hypothesis. The FSH proposes that the EPP is not parasitic on Agree; rather, the EPP along with other features can be arranged into a subset configuration. Depending on the configuration, three types of equally economical movement can result: spec-raising, head movement, or phrasal movement. The third pillar of the theory is the notion of Q-migration, as first developed in Hagstrom (1998). The concept of Q-migration is heavily adapted, redeveloped and formalised, appealing to a combination of m-merger (Matushansky 2006), reprojective movement (Donati 2006) and a new proposed principle of L(abel)-absorption, which allows the transformation of specifiers into adjuncts. The main purpose of Q-migration is to obviate island barriers in order to allow elements within the island, in this case Qu, to escape, yielding the correct interpretation of wh-in-situ elements within islands. The theory is then applied to a variety of languages and especially applied in accounting for the optional wh-movement facts in Singapore English, a contact language with heavy Chinese substrate influence, for which new and original data will be presented

Publisher: Language and Linguistic Science (York)
Year: 2010
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